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6 Nations

Fitzgerald Stunned by One Players Ireland Omission

Former Ireland and Leinster star Luke Fitzgerald has admitted his disbelief at one players’ shock omission from Ireland’s Six Nations squad

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former Ireland and Leinster back Luke Fitzgerald is stunned by Rhys Ruddock’s omission from Andy Farrell’s Six Nations squad.

The new head coach named his first squad last week and despite naming a total of six back-rows among the squad, Ruddock is not one of them and while speaking on the Independent.ie’s rugby podcast, The Left Wing, Fitzgerald admitted he is “astonished”. 

“I thought it was an amazing omission. I thought it was a stinker. I thought it was a complete cop-out. He is the easy guy to drop. He was one of our only good players out at the World Cup. He has been excellent for Leinster for a very long period of time and even though he has had a few injuries and might not always be picked because Leinster rotate him, he is always picked for the big games when he is fit. He is a captain, so he is a leader in there as well. I just don’t get,” he said. 

Ruddock’s form has been at a high-level for some time now and was seen by many as a shining light during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign last year. 

However, Ruddock’s Leinster team-mates Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan and Caelan Doris were joined in the squad by Munster trio CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Jack O’Donoghue as the back-row options. 

Fitzgerald believes that maybe head coach Farrell is looking for something different in his back-row options and that Ruddock doesn’t fit the bill, but still can’t understand his decision. 

“People see the game differently. I find that one really hard to understand but look, it shows you that people can focus in on small parts of someone’s game and that is obviously what has cost him. It baffles me but they are obviously looking at something and saying that other players do that better but I find it astonishing,” he added. 

Fitzgerald was among many to suggest that Ruddock could be an option as a potential Ireland captain before the announcement and his omission doesn’t seem to have gone down well amongst fans. 

However, for now Ruddock isn’t in the squad, and it remains to be seen if he will be brought in if there are any injuries. The Ireland squad are currently preparing for their opening Six Nations game against Scotland on Saturday February 1st, while Ruddock remains in the Leinster squad.

6 Nations

Scotland name strong team for Wales

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Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Issued by SRU

Stuart Hogg will return to the Scotland starting line-up as Captain for the final round of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations against Wales on Saturday 31 October – kick-off 2:15pm.

Fresh from securing the European and Premiership double with his club Exeter Chiefs, Hogg plays at full back as one of five changes to the starting XV from the Scotland side that defeated Georgia 48-7 last week.

Finn Russell lines up at fly-half after winning his 50th Scotland cap in the Georgia victory at BT Murrayfield on Friday night, and is joined in the half-backs by Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price.

In the back division, Blair Kinghorn shifts to the wing from full-back and replaces Edinburgh teammate Duhan van de Merwe, who is named among the replacements. James Lang and Chris Harris continue their centre partnership after playing together against Georgia.

In the pack fellow Exeter Chief Jonny Gray comes into the second row and Scarlets’ Blade Thomson is selected at number 8 and will run out on his club ground on Saturday in Llanelli.Hooker Fraser Brown is named as Vice-Captain and packs down with Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson in an unchanged front row.

Scott Cummings also retains his starting place to partner Gray in the second row.Edinburgh pair Jamie Ritchie, also a Vice Captain, and Hamish Watson make up the back-row with Thomson.

In the replacements Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele could make his Scotland debut if called into action.

Adam Hastings and van de Merwe complete the backline replacements. Townsend can also call upon the same front row of Oli Kebble, Stuart McInally and Simon Berghan as featured in against Georgia, alongside Worcester Warrior Cornell du Preez and Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis from the bench.

“As a group we are very much looking forward to finally completing our fixture against Wales and returning to play Guinness Six Nations rugby again. We were highly motivated back in March, and that extra edge has come back into our training and preparations this week.
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend

“It’s been great to bring in quality and experience to our starting line-up with players such as Stuart, Jonny and Finn who have been involved in some high-level games in recent weeks. We were also encouraged by Blade’s display at the weekend for Scarlets, which is a timely boost given last weekend’s injury to Matt Fagerson.

“We are expecting a physical battle against a very good side, one which we will be working hard to stay in the fight and to finish the fight in Llanelli. Ultimately, this game provides an opportunity for us to end this extended championship on a positive note and go into the Autumn Nations Cup with some added belief in what this group of players can achieve.”

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6 Nations

Wales XV announced for 6 Nations finale v Scotland.

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Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will become rugby’s most capped international on Saturday when he makes his 149th test appearance (140th for Wales plus 9 British & Irish Lions caps).

Jones levelled the record last weekend but will take the honour for himself at Parc y Scarlets this weekend as Wales face Scotland in their re-arranged Guinness Six Nations finale (14.15 KO BBC & S4C).

At the other end of the international spectrum, Cardiff Blues back-row Shane Lewis-Hughes will make his first test appearance for Wales in a back-row alongside experienced Lions duo Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

Will Rowlands, fresh from the English Premiership Final with Wasps, comes into the side to make his first start for Wales and he packs down alongside captain Jones.

European Champion and English Premiership winner Tomas Francis comes into the front-row alongside Rhys Carre and Ryan Elias.

In the backline Gareth Davies partners Dan Biggar with Owen Watkin coming into the midfield alongside Jonathan Davies.

Liam Williams returns to the back-three to feature alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny.

On the bench Sam Parry, Wyn Jones and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row replacements with Cory Hill and James Davies completing the forward contingent. Lloyd Williams comes straight into the matchday squad and provides backline cover along with Rhys Patchell and Nick Tompkins.

Issued by WRU

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6 Nations

England name team to face Italy

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Issued by Rugby Football Union

Eddie Jones has named his team for England’s key Guinness Six Nations tie against Italy on Saturday [31 October].

Ben Youngs is set to make his 100th cap for his country, at scrum half – becoming the second most capped England men’s player of all time after Jason Leonard (114 caps). Youngs made his senior team debut against Scotland in March 2010, where he came on as a substitute in the Calcutta Cup.

There is also a milestone for hooker Jamie George, who will make his 50th appearance for England this weekend.

Both players will lead England out at the Stadio Olimpico. England need a bonus-point win to put them in contention for winning the tournament, depending on the result in France v Ireland, which follows the game in Rome.

Jonny Hill will make his England debut at lock, while Owen Farrell, starting at fly-half, will captain the side. Henry Slade is at inside centre while Jonathan Joseph returns for England at outside centre.

George Furbank is named at full back with Jonny May and Anthony Watson on the wings.

Kyle Sinckler will play tighthead and Mako Vunipola loosehead in the front row. Maro Itoje completes the tight five.

Sam Underhill is named at open-side flanker with Tom Curry named at blind-side flanker and Billy Vunipola, returning from injury for England for the first time since the Rugby World Cup Final, at No. 8.

Uncapped trio Tom Dunn, Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley are named as finishers, alongside scrum half Dan Robson. Props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart also join the bench with Charlie Ewels and Ben Earl.

Jones said: “We’ve trained with good intensity this week and the squad are excited by the challenge of performing at our best against Italy.

“The team have prepared well and are looking forward to putting on an England shirt and showing what they can do.

“We will also celebrate two major achievements in Ben Youngs and Jamie George’s cap milestones. It’s testimony to their skill, hard work and love of playing for England, and there is more to come from both of them.”

Italy v England is live on ITV 1 and BBC Radio 5 Live (4.45pm GMT KO).

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